Hostel takes a new approach
Mark Gordon has been using homeless services since he left care at the age of 18. The 34-year-old from Dorset Street in Dublin has lurched from one homeless facility to another in the last 16 years - and he heralds the new Dublin City Council Brú Aimsir centre on Thomas Street in Dublin as a godsend, writes Miriam Donohoe.
With a lot of the media attention on the problem of family homelessness, the opening of Brú Aimsir two weeks ago as part of the Cold Weather Initiative has been slightly overshadowed. It is providing 101 emergency beds for those who are rough sleeping this winter.
Located in the old Cash 'n' Carry building beside the Digital Hub in Thomas Street, and managed by Crosscare, the former warehouse has been transformed. A far cry from the traditional hostel-type accommodation, it is bright and airy, with colourful furniture and beanbags, striking wall murals, a coffee bar and lots of chill-out areas. What is unique also is the fact that the rooms are not dormitory style - most have just two to three single beds in them.
Mark was in care from the age of 11 and developed a serious drink problem as an adult. But he took his last drink four years ago when his daughter was born. "I decided that day it was time to stop and my life has been a lot better since then," he said.
A veteran of Dublin's homeless services, Martin says Brú Aimsir stands out. "It isn't just the surroundings which are welcoming and warm and different to other hostels but the staff are friendly and open too. You just don't feel homeless here."
Residents of Brú Aimsir must leave the centre around 9am and don't return until 9pm. Martin is luckier than most homeless in that he has somewhere to go during the day - he spends his days with his mother, who is in sheltered accommodation.
"Before this place opened I went from night to night to different hostels and centres. I rang the freephone line every day to see what was available. If nothing came up, I would spend the night rough in the Phoenix Park. I know that I have a bed here for the next week so that gives me some certainty."
Residents of Brú Aimsir are given a light meal in the evening, breakfast in the morning and shower and laundry facilities are also be available. There are a range of health supports on site including nursing, GP cover and holistic therapies.
Fiona Barry, senior services manager with Crosscare, said the number of people offering to volunteer at Brú Aimsir is overwhelming. "This is a great problem to have. The amount of goodwill for the new centre has been overwhelming."
All referrals and bookings into Brù Aimsir are managed by Dublin City Council's Homeless Central Placement Service. Karl Mitchell, deputy director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, said every effort is made to make the emergency accommodation as welcoming as possible.
"What is key is the fact it is linking in with businesses and the local community to ensure Brù Aimsir acts a good neighbour in the area."